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Results of our first winter project

The first winter GBT project in this year "Baikal Pathways" has ended on the 10th of February.

During ten days crew of friendly volunteers from different Russian cities like Moscow, Zhukovskii, Saint-Petersburg, Irkutsk and different countries like Belarus, Netherlands, Scotland was exploring new ways and travelling on the south of Baikal by trains, buses, foot and skis. Volunteers saw unique nature of Baikal region and learnt history of our Siberia, had a chance to get to know each other and hospitable local people, helped The Baikal Nature Reserve and The Great Baikal Trail.

The project started with an excursion to Irkutsk. Our wonderful volunteer and great guide Anya not only told us about the history of Irkutsk but also shared interesting facts about the city, showed us her favorite buldings and yards, answered many questions from volunteers.
In the morning of the second day of the project the crew was ready for new adventures and took a train to Staraya Angasolka where after refreshing hike in snowy forest finally was able to meet great winter Baikal.

For two days volunteers have been living in Angasolka. They have learnt the history of the Circum-Baikal Railway, were walking on railroad ties and in mysterious dark tunnels and were checking the stength and taste of Baikal ice. And in the evenings the crew was sitting by the stove fire with cups of hot tea and developing interactive eco-educational game Around Baikal on Great Baikal Trail. The game should help with performing GBT educational classes and it also will help children learning more about geography, flora and fauna in protected areas in their region and also how to behave when you are in the nature.

Another big adventure that the volunteers had was hiking with heavy backpacks on the Circum-Baikal Railway to Kultuk where they have met the administrative authorities of Sludyanskii region. The authorities introduced the volunteers to real Baikal Ded Moroz (the Russian version of Santa Claus) and shared delicious local herb tea. And most important they told us about the history of their hometown and about the Great Tea Route that went through Sludyanskii region in 16-19 centuries. The route was used for transfering tea, silk, tobacco, and other goods from Asia to Europe. They also told us about a new project The Great Tea Route which will be dedicated to the history of this international object and will help developing touristic infrastructure in the region.

The next and the last stop of the project was our favorite Baikal Reserve. During our stay there volunteers had plenty of time to admire snowy Baikal, to check deep syberian snowdrifts, to learn more about work of the reserve and to help it.

The volunteers were working on developing the passport for travelers which will be used as a guide for those who will visit protected areas which are included in the system of protected areas called Sacred necklace of Baikal.

The main goal of the passport is to make people interested in all protected areas around Baikal. Also the crew shared ideas on the design for the guest house. In our free time we were shoveling snow.

The crew visited excursions in the new visitors center. The volunteers also visited exhibitions dedicated to Baikal, its origin, flora and fauna, and human impact on Baikal. There was another interesting historical exhibition about the Baikal crossing. The crew learnt many interesting facts about this historical place and old events. The volunteers were very excited to visit an open-air cage with real Barguzin sables called Grom (Thunder) and Tuchka (Cloud).
On one of the days volunteers tried hunters skis for the first time and helped making skirun for a new educational route dedicated to Gusev. The crew didn't have much luck with skiing since they lacked the experience. But at least volunteers got a chance to admire snowy syberian taiga.

The crew visited local school on one of the days and told students about the importance of recycling. Also the students learnt what volunteer movement is and who volunteer is. The GBT crew was happy to share their volunteer experience.

Since the Baikal Reserve is located on the territory of Buryat Republic volunteers were interested in Buryat culture and traditions. And in one of the last evenings they even participated in workshop dedicated to cooking Buryat tarditional dish called pozi (buuzi).

So, we surely can say that the project was succesful! During these ten days our volunteers became friends, worked hard, had a good rest, learnt many things, and most important fell in love with the beauty of our syberian nature. They became true friends of the Baikal Nature Reserve and promised to go back here again.